Ambrose Hall Interview Part 5

Beating time, interpretation and marking the score


26 How important is the left hand for phrasing?

Well very important, because that’s the way as I’ve said before that the right hand is for beating and that the left hand is for expression, and basically one tries to do that, and the left hand is very important for expression, and I mean that somehow you make your left hand paint a picture of how the music is going.

AEH: and you know all the gestures that you’re doing in the left hand that the orchestra will immediately understand that you’re doing this or this, sometimes when I’m conducting I’m in four but I sometimes just do this, I don’t actually beat the patterns sometimes, would you say that was the correct way of doing things, do you always need to stick to the beat pattern?

CM: you don’t always have to stick to the beat pattern in fact a lot of people you know that are in four and they go into two, in order to make it easier and make the music flow more.


27 Do you always keep the beat patterns going or do you emphasise with both hands and arms?

Yes often I do, yes for a sforzando, bing bom bing bom one two three four.

AEH: And I’ve also seen you Charlie, when the basses have a pizzicato, you’re doing your beat pattern, then suddenly you move out of that, and you go ding, and you give it to them there, then you move back in to the beat pattern.

CM: Yeah, you have to be very careful not to forget that basses have a pizzicato and the rest of them are playing arco you know.

AEH: Like in the Debussy L’Apre Midi, there’s a bass pizzicato on the second quaver of one of the bars.

CM: Yes that’s right, you have to.

AEH: I like to do that with the celli bass, to get them to do it, I’m in the beat pattern, then I move out of it, ding, and give it to them, I look at them first, they look up, then I do it, I give it to them and that works, would you say that that’s a good way of doing it.

CM: I would yes.


28 How big do you like the make your beat patterns? Are they smaller for quieter passages and bigger for louder passages?

Yes yes, there’re usually smaller for soft passages, yes and louder passages obviously yes that’s true.


29 What are the most important things for a conductor to think about before a rehearsal or concert?

You think about different things, I mean every conductor is different, as I’ve told you, I usually study the score a little bit, on my way to the rehearsal, and it makes a difference really to how the rehearsal goes, so whether I know the orchestra very well, like the Scottish Chamber Orchestra or the Philharmonia, or whether I don’t know so well like the Vienna Philharmonic, in which I have a very good relationship with, and I have to be a little bit more careful when rehearsing an orchestra, particularly a very famous one which I don’t know so well.


30 How much do you like to stamp your interpretation on a work or do you stick exactly to the score?

Oh well, you can’t, I mean as far as I’m concerned you can’t help putting your own interpretation on a work, by the way you conduct it you know, well that’s what Gunther Schuler says a lot about that how much you should stick to the letter of the score, and how much you should be free to express what’s obviously in the music. Well, I would say that certain cases you would do one and in certain cases you would do the other, you know it really does.


31 How much do you like to write things in the score?

I do a lot of that, I do a lot of that marking bowings and extra expression marks you know, I mean you can’t actually, people like Beethoven, and well Mozart as well, they just write piano down the score, but in fact certain instruments have got to be played louder than others, and so I mark that up to a piano or mezzoforte or piano down to pianissimo to get a better balance, but I do mark the scores a lot and do mark the parts a lot, and I have a whole collection of parts which I have had marked over the years, which have been well initially myself but also by copyists copying my markings. When I was working in East Berlin I bought a vast number of materials of famous works, all the Beethoven symphonies and Brahms and many Mozart and so on, but I usually managed to get a copyist to mark in the things that I had marked in the front desks, you know.

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